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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    A swollen "supermoon" is seen bathed in the blood-red light during the stages of a total eclipse above Saint-Michel church in Bordeaux, southwestern France, early on September 28, 2015. Stargazers were treated to a rare astronomical event when a swollen "supermoon" and lunar eclipse combined for the first time in decades, showing the planet bathed in blood-red light. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS TUCAT        (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That brings us to our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye which might be of interest to you, too.

    From Russia to Paris to Las Vegas, stargazers around the world were treated to an uncommon astronomical event last evening: a total lunar eclipse that occurred during a rare so-called supermoon. The phenomenon happens when the sun, Earth and moon perfectly align as the moon’s orbit brings it closest to Earth. This made the moon appear bigger and brighter than usual.

    And sunlight refracting around the Earth bathed it in an eerie reddish glow, giving it the name blood moon. This double feature has not occurred since 1982. And whether or not clouds obscured your view, you will have to wait until 2033 to see it again.

    The post Skygazers moonstruck over ‘super’ rare eclipse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The planet Mars showing showing Terra Meridiani is seen in an undated NASA image. NASA will announce a major science finding from the agency?s ongoing exploration of Mars during a news briefing September 28 in Washington   REUTERS/NASA/Greg Shirah/Handout  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTX1SW3X

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: big news from outer space.

    NASA today announced that it has found evidence of liquid water on Mars, at least during certain seasons of the Martian year. The discovery was made through satellite images, which revealed darkly shaded streaks on slopes of craters and hillsides. They darken and lighten over time as water seeps across the surface, and then evaporates.

    For more on what it all might mean, I’m joined by science correspondent Miles O’Brien.

    Hello again.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Judy, good to see you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how do they know it’s water, Miles? They don’t — there hasn’t been a human there to look at it. They’re looking through satellites. What — how do they know?

    MILES O’BRIEN: The HiRISE instrument, which is on the orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is a very sophisticated instrument and has the ability to do spectral analysis.

    So, it can actually look at how light moves through whatever is flowing there. And it gives unique signatures of water and in this case a lot of salt. It’s the salt that is the key here, because Mars is cold and has an atmosphere which is almost nonexistent. So, the idea of water flowing there is hard to imagine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But this flies in the face of what scientists thought for a long time, or have they been building up to this?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, there is a huge body of evidence that Mars at one time was warm and wet, and we think probably a cushy birth for life.

    So, we have been looking for evidence of ancient life, fossils, for example. There has always been this thought that maybe the water is underneath in an aquifer. Could it somehow rise to the surface on certain occasions in certain ways? That’s been a big question.

    They first spotted these streaks back in 2010. It sure looked like water. But what would keep it following? And the key was, they found these percolates, these salts in there. It’s extremely salty water. Think of why do — how do we get snow off our roads in the winter? We use salt. Right?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    So, it’s not the same. And let’s talk about these streaks. We have got great images here to look at.

    MILES O’BRIEN: They’re spectacular.

    And this is essentially a cliff. And what you see is this — those dark streaks are the water, the briny water that percolate in fused water flowing downward. So, the question is, where did the water come from? Is it from an underground aquifer?

    It’s kind of problematic, because it’s starting at the top of the peak. That’s unusual. Could it be somehow that there is a humidity component to it? Mars is very dry, but, under certainly circumstances, could there be what amounts to kind of dew or fog which is causing this? We don’t know the answer to that yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you keep using the word briny, very salty, so it’s not like the water we have on Earth?

    MILES O’BRIEN: You wouldn’t want to drink it, for sure.

    But because it’s so filled with the salt, it stays in liquid form where it would otherwise freeze. And so the key is, is it so salty that it can’t support life? That’s the real debate among scientists right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do they think? I mean, how are they thinking about that?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, flowing water has been kind of the Holy Grail on Mars, and because wherever we look on this planet, where we see liquid water, we see life. It’s a prerequisite for life as we know it.

    The question is, though, could this be water that sustains life? And could — when you think about salt, it was used as a preservative for a long time on voyages, because it kills microbes. So, there might be so much salt there that there is nothing living there.

    But where is the water coming from, and could it be fresher and could it thus sustain life?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how do they do further investigation?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, I think it’s going to beg for a mission, you know?

    And I think NASA will start thinking about the architecture for a mission. Let’s go to a place — it’s very difficult to get there because it’s on these cliffs. How would you gather up that water? Or would it be smarter to try to find a place where it’s a little more accessible, maybe go down to the aquifer beneath, drill down, and see if there are some microscopic Martians there. Who knows?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who knows?

    It’s fascinating, Miles, but for those people who are watching and saying, how does it really matter? There’s water on Mars. Are we ever really going to really get there to find out?

    MILES O’BRIEN: I think it’s a question worth asking. Are we alone in the universe is a good question.

    And this — we have looked at our neighbor and we are getting closer and closer by hunting after the water to possibly finding evidence of life, ancient or maybe existing. And how exciting would that be? The next second question is, though, is it a second genesis? Or is it — Mars and Earth have been swapping…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another form of human…

    MILES O’BRIEN: Exactly, or we could be Martians.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Or we could have come from there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is what Earth looked like.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how excited — I read today that scientists are debating. How excited are they about this, the folks you talk to?

    MILES O’BRIEN: This is Holy Grail kind of stuff. It’s great science.

    It puts them in a space where they can start making an argument for missions that look beneath the surface. And it’s what this steady stream of NASA and European and other missions to Mars have been all about, following the water, kind of a divining rod, if you will, a high-tech divining rod, and hoping at the end that the pot of gold will be maybe microscopic life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s just extraordinary. I mean, the pictures are extraordinary.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, it literally puts you in another place, doesn’t it? And it’s spectacular to think we have the kind of imagery that gets us that level of detail on a satellite that’s been orbiting that planet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Miles O’Brien, every time you come here, we have another surprise.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. It’s fun.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome, Judy.

    The post Where there’s water on Earth, there’s life. Is the same true on Mars? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This past weekend, the U.N. met to take stock of the millennium promise of guaranteeing a basic education for all children by 2015.

    In a message Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted that, around the world, 59 million children are not in school, and 250 million children are not learning the basics.

    Over the past 12 years, PBS has been chronicling the education of six children in separate countries for WNET’s documentary “Time for School.”

    Tonight, we travel to the tiny African country of Benin, where, in 2003, one in four children were out of school, most of them girls.

    NARRATOR: Nine-year old Nanavi Todenou lives in Koutagba, a remote village in the tiny West African country of Benin, where voodoo was born.

    Nanavi and her village are participating in a nationwide campaign to educate the girls of Benin. The voodoo priest calls for celebration because he has just agreed to allow one girl from each family to attend school, instead of being initiated into the faith.

    BALAKOU, Voodoo Priest (through interpreter): I want Nanavi to go to school. But all the girls can never go to school. There will always be those who’ll go to the convent. No one can force me to release all of them for school.

    NARRATOR: Nearly half of the girls in Benin have had no formal education and often marry very young.

    REGINA GUEDOU, Education Coordinator (through interpreter): Now that your daughters are going to school, aren’t you happy? You’re not going to overwhelm your daughters with all the household chores, are you?

    NARRATOR: Regina Guedou has a key role in Benin’s girls education initiative, traveling from village to village on a state-supported mission to persuade parents of the value of letting girls go to school.

    REGINA GUEDOU (through interpreter): If there are too many illiterate people, the country can’t develop. We need these children of tomorrow, so that the country can change. But this will be a long fight.

    MAKDUE KOFFI ADAPKO, Nanavi’s Teacher (through interpreter): The changes that girls education will bring to the village are huge. The girls who attend school learn about hygiene. For instance, she won’t let her baby go without vaccination against diseases. She can help her mother count the money they made at the market.

    NARRATOR: The oldest of four children, Nanavi is the biggest help on the family’s modest farm. But for her mother, an education was worth the sacrifice.

    KEKE AKODA:, Nanavi’s Mother (through interpreter): I hope that she will become something great, like a doctor. If I had gone to school, I would have had a better life.

    NARRATOR: In 2005, Nanavi suffered a tragic loss.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): When my father died, I felt like dying too. He used to play with me. If I didn’t come back from school and it was getting dark, my father would pick me up in the village.

    NARRATOR: Before passing, Nanavi’s father made one last wish.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): My father told me to go to school and not to rest.

    This is my middle school. This is the sixth grade. And this is my classroom.

    CLASS: Good morning, teacher.

    NARRATOR: With the help of Regina and the girls initiative, Nanavi made it to middle school, one of the select 11 percent of Benin’s girls who even make it this far.

    PATRICE ASSOGBA, Nanavi’s Teacher: OK, now, class, look at it. Is it correct?

    CLASS: Yes!

    PATRICE ASSOGBA: Is it correct?

    CLASS: Yes!

    PATRICE ASSOGBA: Now you clap for Nanavi, please.

    I believe that Nanavi can make it. As we say, with a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): I actually love being in middle school. I want to be a doctor, so I can give people shots. I want to go to school until I become something great.

    My little boy’s name is Adaou Fortune (ph). He was born on May 28, 2015. He’s 2 months old.

    NARRATOR: In 2010, Nanavi left her village to go to boarding school in the city, where Regina and her mother believed she would receive a better education. But the demands of her new school overwhelmed her and she wasn’t able to keep up with other students.

    She moved to the capital, Cotonou, to attend yet another school and lived with her aunt and uncle. But they physically abused her, she says, so she ran away before completing the seventh grade.

    She now lives in the city of Bohicon, the third largest trade center in Benin, and had her son with Alphonse, an older married man already the father of four, who makes a living building auto parts out of rubber.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): I have to stay with him because we already have a son together. And I love him, too. I would’ve preferred to stay in school. School helped me a lot. For example, if you don’t go to school, you can’t read, you can’t speak French, and you wouldn’t be able to study photography.

    NARRATOR: No longer in school, Nanavi is apprenticing at a local photography studio, in the hope of being able to eventually support her family.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): Hi. I’m training to be a photographer. Mind if I take your picture?

    RODRIGUE NOGI, Nanavi’s Photography Mentor (through interpreter): As soon as she started, she was very dedicated to the work. She’s diligent. She gave it her all. She definitely has all the right qualities to become a good reporter.

    ALPHONSE ADAOU, Nanavi’s Partner (through interpreter): It’s clear that she really enjoys this work. I have to help her. She has to finish her apprenticeship. And it will help support us.

    NANAVI TODENOU (through interpreter): It pains me that I couldn’t stay in school, and that’s why my son will do what I wasn’t able to. He will study. He will go further than I was able to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch additional videos of the “Time for School” documentary project on WNET’s website.

    The post Striving for girls’ education in the birthplace of Voodoo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In 2013, when he was in charge of Egypt’s armed forces, Sissi removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president. He himself was then elected to the post last year. Egypt’s struggles are many, amid almost five years of turmoil since the revolution began in January 2011.

    Margaret spoke with Sissi yesterday morning in New York.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. President, thank you for joining us.

    This past week, the big news was that you released 100 political prisoners, including two prominent Al Jazeera journalists. Was the timing of that dictated by the fact you were coming here to the U.N. General Assembly, to quiet all the international criticism there has been of that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI, Egypt (through interpreter): The idea is very simple. Once the legal procedures are over and there is a possibility for me to intervene and to issue a pardon, I didn’t hesitate.

    MARGARET WARNER: In your system, does a legal pardon mean that you have concluded that the charges — that they were innocent of the charges?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Once those are over, the legal party allows the president to intervene to bring an end to this issue and to this legal issue.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, now there are still 18 journalists being held, and, by conservative estimates, 20,000 or more political prisoners, many of whom had been brought in on what are said to be trumped-up terrorism charges.

    Could you act and will you act as swiftly once the legal process is over?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): It is very important to stop at the word of under detention.

    There is no legal formality that allows me to do so, but there are court procedures force that we can deal with these cases.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, the big issue here at the U.N. General Assembly is going to be the fight against Islamic State, and, in particular, focused on Syria right now.

    Now, the anti-ISIL coalition, of which Egypt is a member, you have been at it for a full year, and yet ISIS has grown, if anything, more powerful. Something like 30,000 new fighters, foreign fighters, have entered Syria. Why is that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): It’s the idea that we can fight ISIS only militarily. This means the strategy is incomplete. We need a holistic approach that would include security dimensions, an economic dimension, social and cultural dimensions as well.

    MARGARET WARNER: Egypt has not been involved, except to bomb in Libya, where some ISIS militants have killed so many Christian Copts from Egypt. Is Egypt going to step up its military engagement?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISI (through interpreter): Egypt is one member of the coalition. It has been very clear since the onset of the coalition that the Egyptian role is confined now in fighting terrorism in Sinai and on the borders with Libya that extends over 1,200 kilometers.

    MARGARET WARNER: So more in your neighborhood?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Yes, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: One more question about the bigger picture.

    Do you share the view of Russia and Iran that now is not the time to unseat President Bashar al-Assad or his government, as long as the fight, the number one fight is against ISIL?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): We are for a political solution, not a military solution, in Syria. We want to preserve the integrity of the Syrian territory and preserve the Syrian national army.

    We must confront the extremists organizations and ISIS in Syria to bring stability to the situation. We must reconstruct Syria to accommodate the refugees back into their homes now.

    MARGARET WARNER: But do you think that President Assad can be part of the political transition?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): We need to focus on the real threat, the extremism and terrorism and its negative ramifications and the huge instability that can dominate the Middle East and can spill over to other regions as well.

    MARGARET WARNER: But now there is a big question about whether Bashar Assad and his continued presence and the way he’s treating all of his own people is fueling ISIS. Do you agree with that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): I believe that the negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the regime should conclude that. We cannot just be judgmental while we are from the outside.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, the insurgency in Sinai, I recall, when you came into power, after President Morsi, you vowed that you would clean that up in months, that you’re a military man, that you would know how to do this. And, instead, it is growing. Why is that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): This is what terrorism is, and this is not a simple thing to confront. And I guess the United States has a long experience in countering terrorism in many countries. And despite all the capabilities of the United States, the United States took years in trying to defeat these terrorists.

    But if we can compare the security situation two years ago and today, we find a lot of improvement. But the question is, will the flow of weapons and foreign fighters across the borders from Libya be stopped? This flow poses threats to us and a challenge to us.

    MARGARET WARNER: Secretary Kerry said this publicly in Cairo. Senator John McCain has said it, that the crackdown on the Brotherhood in your country, the further repression and jailing of many, many dissidents has, in fact, worsened this problem and has radicalized people in a way they weren’t before.

    What do you say to that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): You cannot forget that Egypt has been in a state of revolution for five years, and the Egyptian resources are limited.

    The state of affairs in Egypt witnessed two revolutions in two years. These have been very difficult times for Egyptians. And we have 90 million people. They need to live. At the end of the day, Egyptians want to find their basic needs provided and a better chance for life. This cannot be achieved while there is a state of chaos. The standards that you live by do not necessarily have to apply to the standards that we live in, in our own countries.

    We need some time in order to reach the standards that you live by.

    MARGARET WARNER: I understand that, but my question is, has the crackdown really, ever since you came into office, including now under the anti-terrorism law, actually fueling the insurgency in Egypt?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Undoubtedly, the crackdown on the insurgents and the terrorist members decreased the insurgent operations.

    MARGARET WARNER: Decreased?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Decreased, undoubtedly decreased the terrorist operations and terrorist incidents. I’m saying to you, terrorism cannot defeat a country, especially if its people are unified in confrontation of terrorism. This is what we find in Egypt.

    MARGARET WARNER: But, in fact, the number of attacks has increased, has it not?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): No. This is not true.

    MARGARET WARNER: So you don’t think these critics could be right?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Everybody has the right to criticize. Everybody has to present their own view. But I’m just offering you our perspective.

    The reality is, if we turned to Syria, Iraq or Libya, the situation would have been much more dangerous for the region and for Europe. Of our 90 million people, 60 million are young people. Imagine if we are suffering from that state of chaos. What would the situation be?

    MARGARET WARNER: There is also concern in Congress that military equipment given to Egypt, whether Apache helicopters, Hellfire missiles, are being used in these anti-terrorist operations, but in fact are vaporizing entire villages in Sinai, the attack on the Mexican tourists in the Western Desert.

    Can you ensure U.S. taxpayers that in fact their gifts to Egypt are not being used in this way in the future?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Let me respond about the incident, the unfortunate incident of the Mexican tourists. That was a mistake. They were in an off-limit area very close to the border area with Libya, dangerous areas, where smugglers used to infiltrate with weapons and foreign fighters.

    As for Sinai, I want to assure you that Egypt will never use weapons or force against innocent civilians, because we will not allow ourselves to kill innocent civilians.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me turn to Egypt-U.S. relations, because the U.S. recently — lift the ban on military hardware to Egypt. Is it back on track now, the relationship? Do you feel it has improved?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): In comparison to the last months, yes, it has improved.

    MARGARET WARNER: And what more would you like to see?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): We have started a strategic dialogue with the United States to review our strategies and try to find ways how to handle issues of common interest in a better way.

    MARGARET WARNER: And do you trust the United States as a reliable ally?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Me? Undoubtedly. It goes without saying. The United States has never let us down throughout the past years.

    MARGARET WARNER: That’s quite a statement.

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): I just want to say to you, though, that the last two years presented a real test of the endurance and strength of the U.S.-Egyptian strategic relationship.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me go back, finally, to the state internally in Egypt.

    Can you explain to the American people why so many young pro-democracy activists have been rounded up and put in prison, sometimes for violating the law that allows them — doesn’t allow them to protest? It’s hard for Americans to understand.

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): It is true that Americans won’t understand that easily, because they look at us from the American perspective.

    But let me explain to them that we didn’t stop protests in Egypt. We only regulated the right of protesting in Egypt. Many countries do. We do not ban it, and we will not. We only regulated it.

    Why? Because we need stability. We are not a rich country. This country cannot afford a state of instability.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so you think these young liberal pro-democracy activists are a threat to that?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): It is not a threat to the country. They just need to know that we cannot leave in this state of affairs forever. We need our country to progress. We need to build our country after years of stagnant waters.

    We have complete respect for the liberal young people, but this cannot be the only way people judge Egypt.

    MARGARET WARNER: People of every age and stripe who got out in Tahrir Square four years ago and inspired the world, calling for more openness, greater right of dissent, greater right to participate say it’s worse than ever.

    Has the dream of Tahrir died?

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI (through interpreter): Never.

    The dream of Tahrir still holds. And I want to tell you that there is no Egyptian president who can continue political leadership against the will of the Egyptians. This is a fundamental change now, only the presidential term, one or two terms, and the president has to go. This is the normal thing. And this is a very good development that Egypt is witnessing. And it is going to be a remarkable experience.

    This is what I dream of. And this is my determination and political will. And this is what I hope for my country, that it can only be ruled by the will, by the will and the choice of the Egyptians, not against their free will.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

    PRESIDENT ABDEL-FATTAH EL-SISSI: Thank you very much, indeed.

    The post Egypt’s president on fighting Islamic State, U.S. relations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian C. Frank - RTS1XL4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump announces his plan to cut taxes, Hillary Clinton embarks on a new campaign strategy, and Speaker Boehner steps down, but the problems of Congress still remain, a perfect time for Politics Monday.

    I’m joined by Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to you both.

    So, let’s start with Donald Trump. He did, finally today, unveil this tax reform plan. Eliminate taxes for, what, millions of people, cut taxes for some of the highest income earners.

    Let’s listen to a little bit of what he said at this announcement today.

    DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: We will run this country properly. There is so much money to be saved. We’re reducing taxes, but, at the same time, if I win, if I become president, we will be able to cut so much money. And I have a better fact. We won’t be losing anything, other than we will be balancing budgets and getting them where they should be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, what was the reaction to this today in political and economic circles? Is this a plan that is likely to gain him support from voters?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, I have dubbed this the Oprah tax plan. It’s a little bit like, you get a tax cut, and you get a tax cut, and you get a tax cut. Everybody gets something.

    But, unlike Oprah, we don’t really know where the money is coming from. I know Oprah can pay for all the things that she gives away. This is a tax plan, though, that did get some conservatives with a thumbs-up, people like Grover Norquist, who is a very influential Republican conservative tax-fighter, just doesn’t want to see any tax increases ever.

    Even the Club for Growth, who has come out and criticized Donald Trump, saying that they don’t think he’s conservative enough, that he has hiked taxes in the past or at least — I’m sorry — he has advocated hiking taxes, even they had to concede.

    I think Donald Trump is doing two things here. The first is, he’s pushing back on the argument against him that he is not strong enough on policy, he’s not doing enough to talk specifics, and, number two, pushing back on this theme that people like Club for Growth have argued that he’s not a serious conservative, that he’s not a real Republican. This tax plan helps to push back on both.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we know part of it, a lot of tax cuts, but there is taking away the so-called carried interest favor that’s been given to some of the hedge funds folks in New York.

    But, Tamara, how does this compare to what other Republicans have been saying about what they would do about taxes?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: In some ways, it’s on steroids.

    It’s like the Jeb plan on steroids. He is lowering the business tax rate, the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, and in addition to cutting it from the 35 percent that it currently is, he also would take freelance income, he would take small businesses that currently pay taxes at the individual tax rate, all of that would get pushed over and put on the corporate tax rate at 15 percent, which Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, said was ambitious and bold.

    And the reality is, this is a pretty specific plan. It includes a lot of details, new tax code, new tax brackets on the personal income side, a zero percent bracket where he — in the plan itself, it says that there will be a page that you just fill out that says, “I win.”

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But we do now know a little bit more, Amy, about where he’s coming from on economics from this, right? At least it fills in some of that picture.

    AMY WALTER: Yes, sure. It says he wants to give everybody a little bit of something. He says he’s going to pay for it by closing these tax loopholes, which most economists say is not going to be possible.

    But we also know that he wants to do a lot of other spending, but we also don’t know where that’s coming from, building a wall across the border of Mexico, humanely rounded up immigrants, as he said the other night, having a health care plan that’s not Obamacare, but will cover everybody. It’s not clear where that money is coming from.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, let’s talk — we have talked about Donald Trump, one of the Republicans.

    Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton. Tamara, he was — she was — I guess her campaign has decided she’s going to give more interviews. We have seen her popping up on different news programs. And everywhere she goes, she’s being asked about the e-mails. It was no different yesterday on “Meet the Press.” Chuck Todd asked her some questions.

    Here’s part of that exchange.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: There are some things about this that I just can’t control. I can’t control the technical aspects of it. I am not by any means a technical expert. I relied on people who were. My assumption was anything that I sent to a dot-gov account would be captured.

    CHUCK TODD, “Meet the Press”: But that’s very difficult to capture all of your e-mails by going to perhaps thousands of people in their dot-gov accounts. It would have a lot been easier if it was sent to your dot-gov account.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Well, but when you communicate with people in other parts of the government, you’re not sending it to the StateDepartment.gov. And that would have been true either way.

    Look, I think I have done all that I can to take responsibility, to be as transparent as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tamara, he didn’t — what I know people are saying about this interview is, she doesn’t seem as impatient with these questions as she has in the past.

    TAMARA KEITH: She looks very relaxed, like I’m going to sit here…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Almost happy to be getting questions.

    TAMARA KEITH: … and I am going to be relaxed.

    (LAUGHTER)

    TAMARA KEITH: And she was.

    But Chuck asked her at some point, is this just a drip, drip, drip? And she said, yes, this is a drip, drip, drip. And this is going to drip, drip, drip. There’s going to be another release of e-mails of the State Department later this week on Wednesday.

    And then come October 22, there is going to be this big Benghazi committee hearing. And there is no telling whether that’s really going to be the end of it. Odds are it won’t really be the end of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But does her campaign, Amy, think they just have to slog through this no matter what?

    AMY WALTER: Yes, it’s the — and you saw it both¯in her body language and when she acknowledged the drip, drip, drip. There is this resignation to her fate, that I don’t control this, I don’t know what’s going to come of it.

    All she can hope is two things, one, that this stays in the political realm. It doesn’t go in the legal realm, we don’t start talking about real serious repercussions. And, two, that eventually the media and voters and the public get bored with this story and it goes away. But that’s not anytime soon, and certainly not before the end of October.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I can’t let the two of you get away without asking about the big news of last Friday. House Speaker John Boehner announced he is stepping down.

    Yesterday, he did an interview one of the Sunday shows with John Dickerson on “Face the Nation.”

    And we heard Boehner here spell out who some of these conservatives are who led to this decision. Here’s part of that.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: The Bible says, beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had a chance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tamara, we hear what the speaker is saying. He’s been pretty blunt there about — is Kevin McCarthy or somebody else — who, by the way, announced today he’s running for the speakership, confirmed it. Are things going to be different under his leadership?

    TAMARA KEITH: He’s going to have the same math problem that John Boehner had, which is, in the House, Republicans can get what they want if they all agree with each other. Otherwise, they’re going to have to have some Democratic help.

    And then it gets over to the Senate, and they can’t blast through a filibuster. And then it would go through the Democratic president. And there’s no way a Democratic president is going to defund Planned Parenthood or eliminate Obamacare. So, they still have the same fundamental problem. Kevin McCarthy, I think, has better relationship with some of the most conservative members, but I don’t know how far that will go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what changes, Amy?

    AMY WALTER: We just change — literally, we change chairs, and that’s really about it.

    I don’t think we’re going to see much more out of a McCarthy speakership than we would out of a Boehner speakership. The one question is, how much does he accede to that conservative base? Does he say, fine, yes, let’s shut the government down over the debt ceiling in December, yes, fine, let’s go take more stringent positions, force the president’s hand, which could create, of course, more gridlock, more — and we could have another government shutdown, and we could get to the place where Republicans, especially those who want to win the White House back, say, this is damaging us beyond repair.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But there is no sign he’s going to do some of those things?

    (CROSSTALK)

    AMY WALTER: We don’t know what he’s going to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    Well, that’s why we have you two here to explain it for us.

    (CROSSTALK)

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

    The post Trump uses tax plan to push back on criticisms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane - RTS1TKA

    U.S. Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina September 18, 2015. Photo by Reuters/Chris Keane.

    RANDLEMAN, N.C. — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Monday said NASCAR fans should continue flying the Confederate Flag, so long as it’s on private property, as he received the informal endorsement of racing legend Richard Petty.

    Petty’s support marks a significant step for Carson, the only African-American in the crowded 2016 Republican field, as he navigates delicate political issues in a region that could play prominently in the selection of the next Republican presidential nominee.

    The retired NASCAR driver appeared with the retired neurosurgeon Monday at a camp for disabled children established by Petty’s foundation. While he shied away from a formal endorsement, Petty left little doubt about the significance of the appearance.

    “We’re hoping he’s endorsing the camp, we’re not necessarily endorsing him, but we are — you know what I mean?” Petty, in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, said in a brief interview with the Associated Press. He later posed for pictures aboard Carson’s campaign bus.

    “He’s very humane,” Petty said when asked what he liked about Carson. “That’s one of his strong points as far as we’re concerned.”

    Formal or not, Petty’s support lends Carson some credibility in North Carolina and among a broader swath of Southern states set to play a key role in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia are expected to host Republican primary contests in the first week of March.

    Carson has toured the country extensively in recent years, but in some ways, the Detroit native is still learning about the South.

    He was cautious when asked to weigh in on Petty’s recent comments on the Confederate Flag, a symbol of slavery for many African-Americans and southern pride for whites. The flag is often flown prominently by NASCAR fans before and after races around the country. Petty this summer called the flag debate “a passing fancy.”

    Carson told the AP that NASCAR fans should continue flying the flag “if it’s private property and that’s what they want to do.”

    He also acknowledged the flag remains “a symbol of hate” for many black people and compared it to the Nazi swastika.

    “Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,” Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag “a local issue.” ”If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

    Carson, who has never held elected office, has surged in the polls by tapping into an aggressive anti-establishment sentiment roughly four months before the Iowa caucuses. He said he expects to raise $20 million for the fundraising quarter that ends this month, tangible evidence of his extraordinary appeal.

    Yet he remains somewhat unknown compared to his Republican rivals, particularly billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

    Julie Lopp, whose family owns Lexington Barbecue, where Carson and his team stopped for lunch Monday, said Trump is “a little bit too extreme.”

    She said she was still learning about Carson, but would likely support him or former technology executive Carly Fiorina in the Republican primary. “I just think he’s honest,” she said of Carson.

    She also suggested there were white southerners who probably wouldn’t support Carson because of his race.

    “As much as people try to sound like they don’t care, some people think a black president will look out for the black lifestyle,” said Lopp, who worked in Lexington Barbecue for the last 36 years, adding that women like Fiorina would likely face discrimination from some voters as well.

    Carson dismissed such comments with a shrug: “Racism exists everywhere,” he said.

    Meanwhile, his lack of experience in the South was apparent over lunch.

    “What are these?” he asked his wife, pointing to a small fried morsel as they began to eat. “Hush puppies,” she responded.

    A spokesman later confirmed that Monday was Carson’s first time eating hush puppies, a popular southern side dish.

    The post Carson tells NASCAR fans Confederate flag is OK on private property appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015.    REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTX1SY8V

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Margaret Warner joins me now.

    So, Margaret, how far apart are these two powerful leaders in how they approach the world?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, I think quite different, Judy, even though if you just arrived from Mars and you read their speeches, you would think both were talking about having a very orderly and cooperative world.

    But not only as you heard in the speeches did they have very different views of Ukraine and Syria, how we got to the point where we are in both countries, but, you know, what the solutions are. The difference was that President Obama talked a lot about how a strong nation is actually forced to do diplomacy abroad, and, at home, its citizens to its freedoms — or accepts the facts that its citizens have freedoms, and it’s a weak leader and a weak country that asserts itself abroad sort of unilaterally and represses dissent at home.

    It was an obvious dig at Putin. And he said, in the end, that is a recipe for essentially a disorderly world. Now, Putin didn’t talk at all of course about human rights or any sort of broad topics like that. He also talked about wanting to cooperate, but he just didn’t, I would say, try to offer an alternative vision, other than vague statements about cooperation.

    And, in fact, they clearly, in their actions, are dealing very differently with almost every conflict you see around the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know, as you just mentioned, Putin’s — has forces. He’s beefing up his forces in Syria. But in addition, we now know the Russians have arranged this intelligence gathering arrangement with Iran and with Assad in Syria. What is the U.S. saying about that?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, they’re very concerned.

    And the other player in this, by the way, Judy, is Iraq. So, those four countries are going to share intelligence on ISIS. And when this first came out yesterday, the United States was completely blindsided. They had no idea. No one alerted them. So, it was clearly — it’s like Putin and the rest of them are trying to set up a rival sort of anti-ISIS coalition.

    And what worries the United States is, it adds to the U.S. worries, which is, what is Putin really up to? In other words, has he sent forces to Syria to fight ISIS, or is it really to prop up Assad and help Assad wipe out all internal opposition, whether they’re terrorists or not?

    So this just adds to the sort of basket of worries that the United States has about the situation in Syria. Now, others would argue of course that President Obama declined to get very involved in Syria, and Russia has stepped into a void, essentially, a sort of external leadership. Wherever you come down on that argument, the U.S. is very, very concerned.

    Now, to us, members of the administration said, oh, well. One said to me very low-level intelligence officers. And another side, oh, Iraq is a sovereign country. They can do whatever they want, even though the U.S. is in there really trying to save Iraq’s bacon, retraining its military, giving them air support in their attacks on ISIS.

    But, I mean, those ring a little hollow. I mean, the United Kingdom as an ally wouldn’t do something like this without telling Washington, for example. So, Iraq may be a sovereign country, but I think that’s what stunned them the most, the U.S. officials, that Iraq is part of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, given all this, what were the expectations going into this meeting between President Obama and Putin? We assume it’s still going on.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    And, apparently I mean, I wasn’t there, and just a couple of reporters and photographers. They have a stony handshake. The expectations were low, very low on the U.S. part, because meetings between Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Lavrov had not yielded — including here in New York — had not yielded any greater insight into what the Russians are up to.

    When they use words like frank, you know what that means. And nor have there been any really private assurances. And then, of course, there was no sense of give, except that President Obama said in his speech today, we are willing to work with Russia and Iran.

    So, in that sense, you have seen the U.S. move a little — you know, open the door, that they would like to have Russia part of this anti-ISIS coalition. But their expectations were quite low going into it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a lot to watch, Margaret Warner, who will be in New York the rest of the week following the goings-on at the U.N. Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Thank you, Judy.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama sits while being introduced to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28,  2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1SW9T

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: How to end the war in Syria, that was the key question today at the United Nations. It’s a conflict that’s left thousands dead, displacing millions more, with ripple effects across the Middle East and Europe.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, is there, and she has this report.

    MARGARET WARNER: One hundred and sixty world leaders filled the General Assembly hall this morning to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the organization dedicated to preserving peace in the world.

    But the speeches of President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin only highlighted the ongoing tensions between two of its founding members.

    Mr. Obama spoke first, with an ominous warning.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We come together today knowing that the march of human progress never travels in a straight line, that our work is far from complete, that dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.

    MARGARET WARNER: It was an indirect reference, both to the rise of the Islamic State and to what the U.S. sees as adventuresome by Russia, Syria and Iran.

    He rejected the Russian argument that supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the price for fighting ISIS.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.

    MARGARET WARNER: Later, Putin, who appeared at the U.N. event for the first time in a decade, flatly disagreed. He said there’s only one way to end the brutal conflict in Syria and defeat ISIS.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face. We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and Kurd militia are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria.

    MARGARET WARNER: Putin is already engaged in a major military buildup in Syria, and he’s now struck an intelligence-sharing deal with Syria, Iran and Iraq, which came as a surprise to the White House. He called today for a broad global coalition against terror, and he rejected criticism of Russia’s new activism on the world stage.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN (through interpreter): I must note that such an honest and direct approach of Russia has been recently used as a pretext to accuse it of growing ambitions, as if those who say it had no ambitions at all. However, it is not the matter of Russia’s ambitions, but the recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.

    MARGARET WARNER: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani likewise defended his country’s actions in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran is actively aiding Assad, and he blamed American policy for forcing Iran to act.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): We must not forget that the roots of today’s destruction can be found in the occupation, invasion and military intervention of yesterday. If we didn’t have the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorists wouldn’t have an excuse for the justification of their crimes.

    MARGARET WARNER: The flash point in Ukraine also figured large in the dueling speeches. President Obama condemned Russia for flagrantly violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today. That is the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners impose on Russia. It is not a desire to return to a cold war.

    MARGARET WARNER: But Putin shot back that the root of the problem is American arrogance.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN (through interpreter): We all know that, after the end of the Cold War, a single center of domination emerged in the world. And then those who found themselves at the top of that pyramid were tempted to think that, if we are so strong and exceptional, then we know better than anyone what to do.

    MARGARET WARNER: Obama and Putin’s speeches were a public preview of a private meeting later, their first direct sit-down in nearly a year.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin went to the United Nations today, where they laid out starkly different visions on the future of Syria. The two men addressed world leaders, disagreeing openly on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go or stay. Later, they met privately. We will get a full report on developments at the start of this big week at the U.N. after the news summary.

    In other news, Wall Street had a bad Monday over new signs of weakness in China’s economy and falling oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 313 points to close back near 16000, down about 2 percent. The Nasdaq fell 142 points, or 3 percent. And the S&P 500 dropped 49, 2.5 percent.

    As the U.S. focused on Syria at the U.N., the Taliban scored a major coup in Afghanistan. Hundreds of fighters attacked and captured the city of Kunduz, a provincial capital in the north. The Taliban militants took cell phone video of themselves after this seizure of a major Afghan city for the first time since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

    MAN (through interpreter): This is our hope. We want to build a religious school, to build a bridge, a road, a Sharia-based government. This is why we came out and this is what we fought for, so that Sharia law is enforced here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the fall of Kunduz and its significance, I spoke earlier this evening to freelance journalist Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul.

    Sune, welcome.

    Tell us what happened. How did the Taliban pull this off?

    SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN, Freelance Journalist: Well, this is an attack that started around 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and the Taliban attacked the city of Kunduz from four different districts, three different directions around, surrounding the city.

    And around mid-morning, they captured the regional hospital in the city. And early in the afternoon, they’d taken the intelligence service headquarters, they had taken and released hundreds of prisoners. And they had also set fire to a U.N. building.

    So, this seems to be a very concerted effort by militant groups from not just Kunduz, but different provinces as well, and something that had been weeks, if not months, in the making.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why was Kunduz in such a vulnerable position?

    SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN: That’s a good question, but mainly — one of the main reasons is the withdrawal of foreign troops. The German troops were the main force up there. They pulled out two years ago. And, since then, the government has had a really hard time establishing authority and getting people on their side, not least — Kunduz is a place where a lot of the opposition, militant opposition to the Taliban relies on militia leaders and former warlords, who don’t necessarily have a lot of backing from their population, because they have a reputation of abusing the local population.

    And that is something that creates a fertile ground for an insurgency like the Taliban.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, quickly, how much a threat does this pose to the central government in Kabul?

    SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN: Well, that depends on how long the Taliban is able to hold Kunduz.

    And I’ll be surprised if the government forces are not able to push them out relatively quickly. But, that said, Kunduz is a strategically important city. It’s at a crossroads between the northern provinces and is a gateway to Tajikistan. And it also has highways connecting the province to Kabul and to Mazar, north of those two cities. So, it is a strategically very important province.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sune Engel Rasmussen, reporting for us from Kabul, we thank you.

    SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN: You’re welcome.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Yemen, security officials charged that airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia killed at least 38 people at a wedding party today. It happened in a town near the port city of Mocha on the country’s southwestern coast. The Saudis are running an air campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen, but they denied hitting a wedding party. A spokesman said, “This is totally false news.”

    Pope Francis is back in Rome after his U.S. visit, but he kept making news even as he flew home last night. Speaking to reporters in Italian, he condemned bishops who helped hide the sexual abuse of children by priests.

    POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): When a priest abuses a child, it is very bad. He crushes them with evil. And for that reason, it is almost a sacrilege. He has betrayed his vocation, the call of God. And, also, one shouldn’t cover it up. The ones who covered these things up are also guilty.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The pope also defended the consoling words he offered to U.S. bishops last week over the abuse scandal. He said he wanted to acknowledge that they had suffered, too.

    Prosecutors in Germany today opened a fraud investigation of Volkswagen’s former CEO over cheating on emission tests. Martin Winterkorn resigned last week as the scandal burst to life. Separately, German government officials insisted that they had been unaware that V.W.’s data was falsified.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Senate voted to break a deadlock over funding government operations into December. That’s after Republicans gave up trying to pass a bill that also denied funding for Planned Parenthood. The House is expected to follow suit this week.

    Royal Dutch/Shell is abandoning its search for oil in Alaska’s Arctic waters, at least for now. The company spent $7 billion on drilling in the Chukchi Sea, but says it didn’t find enough oil to make it worthwhile. Environmentalists had condemned the project, saying that a spill would devastate wildlife in the region.

    And there’s hopeful news for women in the early stages of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that a gene test can determine which patients are helped more by hormone therapy. Those who skipped traditional chemotherapy, based on that test, had less than a 1 percent chance of their cancer recurring over five years.

    The post News Wrap: Taliban fighters capture Afghan city appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lin-Manuel Miranda is seen in New York, New York on  Sept. 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Lin-Manuel Miranda in New York City on Sept. 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and Broadway composer-playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda join a puppeteer, a video artist, a community leader and many others in the new group of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows. The fellowships, also known as the “genius grants,” were announced Tuesday.

    Each of the fellows will receive $625,000 over the course of five years, with no requirements attached. They work in a wide variety of fields but all share an “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” according to the MacArthur Foundation.

    Coates, a correspondent for The Atlantic, has addressed the complex history of race in the U.S. with articles including “The Case for Reparations” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” His book “Between the World and Me,” published in July, took the form of a letter to his 14-year-old son and discussed the historical roots of systemic racism and white supremacy, as well as Coates’ experiences growing up in Baltimore. In our series Brief but Spectacular, he reflected on the legacy of white supremacism. Watch him discuss his most recent book with the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan.
    [Watch Video]

    Kartik Chandran and Gary Cohen are each working to lessen negative human impacts on the environment. Chandran, an environmental engineer, is developing methods to turn wastewater into fertilizers, chemicals and energy sources. Cohen, an environmental health advocate, works for health care providers in the U.S. and abroad to decrease their environmental pollution.

    Juan Salgado, CEO of Instituto Del Progreso Latino. Photo by Peter Wynn Thompson/AP Images for John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Juan Salgado, CEO of Instituto Del Progreso Latino, at his office in Chicago on Sept. 15, 2015. Photo by Peter Wynn Thompson/courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Other fellows are pioneering change at the local level. Alex Truesdell, an adaptive designer and fabricator, is creating tools and furniture that make homes and schools more accessible for children with disabilities. And Juan Salgado, president and CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino, works with low-income immigrant communities in Chicago to remove barriers to education and the workforce.

    Four of the fellowships went to theater artists from a range of backgrounds. Basil Twist is a puppetry artist and director who uses innovative materials and methods to create puppet shows. His 1998 underwater piece “Symphonie Fantastique” used fabric, feathers, tinsel and other materials in 500 gallons of water. He is the only American ever to have graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France.

    Mimi Lien, the first set designer ever to receive a MacArthur, staged a Tsarist Russian salon for “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812″ (2013), among other innovative works that help build the world of a show. Michelle Dorrance is a tap dancer and choreographer mixing elements of contemporary dance with the American tap dance tradition. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the Tony-winning “In the Heights” (2007) along with the wildly popular “Hamilton,” in which he also stars. “Hamilton” opened on Broadway in August and tells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton through hip-hop and street culture.

    Among the fellows, several visual artists are working to highlight contemporary social issues. LaToya Ruby Frazier, a photographer and video artist, explores the postindustrial decline of marginalized communities through a mix of self-portrait and social narration. Nicole Eisenman uses a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture and printmaking, to explore themes including gender and sexuality, family dynamics and wealth inequality.

    Beth Stevens,  Assistant Professor of Neurology at Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Friday, September 18, 2015.  (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

    Beth Stevens, Assistant Professor of Neurology, at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts on Sept. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Many of the fellowships went to chemists, biologists and other scientists, including neuroscientist Beth Stevens, who is conducting new research on how microglial cells function in the brain, and stem cell biologist Lorenz Studer, whose research could lead to one of the first treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

    Read the full list of the 24 grantees below.

    • Patrick Awuah, Education Entrepreneur
    • Kartik Chandran, Environmental Engineer
    • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Journalist
    • Gary Cohen, Environmental Health Advocate
    • Matthew Desmond, Urban Sociologist
    • William Dichtel, Chemist
    • Michelle Dorrance, Tap Dancer and Choreographer
    • Nicole Eisenman, Painter
    • LaToya Ruby Frazier, Photographer and Video Artist
    • Ben Lerner, Writer
    • Mimi Lien, Set Designer
    • Lin-Manuel Miranda, Playwright, Composer, and Performer
    • Dimitri Nakassis, Classicist
    • John Novembre, Computational Biologist
    • Christopher Ré, Computer Scientist
    • Marina Rustow, Historian
    • Juan Salgado, Community Leader
    • Beth Stevens, Neuroscientist
    • Lorenz Studer, Stem Cell Biologist
    • Alex Truesdell, Adaptive Designer and Fabricator
    • Basil Twist, Puppetry Artist and Director
    • Ellen Bryant Voigt, Poet
    • Heidi Williams, Economist
    • Peidong Yang, Inorganic Chemist

     

    The post Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lin-Manuel Miranda win MacArthur fellowships appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Student with piggy bank. Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

    How can you save for college before the student loan debt is upon you? Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: You’ve heard the student loan horror stories, so instead of telling another cautionary tale, I’m just going to offer this one frightful fact: Seven in 10 students who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges have student-loan debt, with an average of nearly $30,000 of debt. Yikes.

    So how can you save for college before the student-loan debt is upon you? For that we turn to John F. Wasik, author of the new book, “The Debt-Free Degree.” Wasik last wrote for Making Sen$e in a column about investing lessons we can learn from John Maynard Keynes.

    The following is excerpted from the “The Debt-Free Degree.” For more on this topic, check back into Making Sen$e tomorrow for another excerpt on how to pick the right college to avoid debt. The full ebook available online.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    You can conquer the student debt beast by saving early and often — if you’re in a position to do so.

    We opened up Section 529 college savings plans when our daughters were born. One was a Coverdell College Savings Plan, which we later rolled over into a 529 plan. These are special plans offered by states that exclusively focus on college savings.

    Although we planned to save as much as we could for college, like most long-range plans, a lot of things got in the way. First, there were the massive stock market sell-offs of 2001 and 2008. Then there was the loss of what I thought was a steady job (right after the first market crash).

    Just after the 2008 bust, I lost another job, and my wife was diagnosed with and then treated for cancer, which depleted much of our cash savings. On top of that, we had the usual expenses of painting our house, fixing our driveway and replacing appliances. Lightning struck our house — twice — although thankfully it only fried a few appliances.

    Despite all of these travails, we managed to save something in our daughters’ 529 plans, which were linked to a credit card that added 1 percent in contributions with every purchase. Looking at the current prices of decent colleges, though, we knew it wouldn’t be enough. I still had to save for retirement, because I had increasingly fewer years to accumulate money (I am now late in my sixth decade) and needed the tax deductions for my 401(k) contributions.

    So if you are a parent considering children — or have children now — setting up a college savings plan is an essential first step to avoiding debt. They are great vehicles, because they accumulate money tax free and allow you to withdraw funds for college without paying income tax. With 529 plans, you are investing in mutual funds that grow over time. If you do it right — and can save prodigiously — you’ll be in good shape when the first college bills start rolling in when they’re 18.

    There are other options in college savings plans, of course.

    • You can set up trusts called “UGMAs” or UTMAS,” although they are not the best vehicles to help you qualify for financial aid since it puts assets into a student’s name after a certain age. That will count against you in most financial-aid formulas.
    • You can also save in state-only college tuition programs, but you are limited to institutions within that plan. If you’re absolutely certain that your child will attend a specific college, then they are worth considering. The best part of these programs is they lock in tuition at a certain rate, so you’re essentially getting a tuition discount in the future.
    •  You can save money in a retirement plan such as a Roth individual retirement account (IRA). But be aware of the restrictions: You avoid an early-withdrawal penalty only if you’re older than age 59 and 1/2. With Roths, you don’t pay income tax on withdrawals, although you need to pay tax on contributions. They are a good back-up plan for late-starting parents like myself, who will be in our seventh decades while we still have college-age children. Overall, though, I wouldn’t recommend starting a family after 40 (as I did), nor using retirement funds for college.
    •  You can always save in a special savings account, investment club or mutual fund earmarked for college, but you won’t get the tax breaks — both state and federal — you’d reap from a 529 plan.

    Save early and often in 529 plans

    Every state has a program, but you can invest in any plan. For parents, you can start when a child is born, although the plans can be started at any time.

    Direct-sold plans that don’t charge a commission are best. Look for low expense ratios in mutual funds and choose an “age-based” program that automatically reduces stock-market risk as your child gets closer to college. Also ask about state-specific tax breaks.

    Want to boost college savings even more? Students, instead of asking for gifts from grandparents and other relatives for birthdays, Christmas, Bar Mitzvahs, etc., tell them to directly contribute to a 529 plan you’ve set up. While they don’t get a deduction for contributing, they can help build your college fund, which will grow over the years.

    Keep in mind that proceeds from 529 plans are tax free — but only if you use them for educational expenses such as tuition, room and board, books and other college fees.

    To find out which plans are offered by your state, go to savingforcollege.com.

    The post Beating back the college debt beast before it beats you appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Image via PBS.

    Image via PBS.

    In 2000, the United Nations set a goal that by 2015 every child in every nation should be able to obtain free basic education — believing literacy can help reduce poverty and promote economic development. At the time, over 100 million children had never stepped foot in a classroom. And although today that number has almost been halved, 59 million children are still out of school — and that number is now rising.

    While the UN has been tracking the numbers — meeting this past weekend to take stock — PBS has been following seven kids in seven countries over the last 12 years to reveal the deeply human stories behind the reports. Most of the students live in countries facing profound challenges — where war, abject poverty, or just being a girl often stand between a child and this simple dream.

    In 2003, Kenya abolished primary school fees in an effort to increase enrollment. And, according to the president of Kenya, it worked — gross enrollment in primary schools rose by 116 percent. That year, we began following 10-year-old Joab Onyando who was able to attend school for the first time. But the country wasn’t prepared for the huge influx of kids and didn’t have the infrastructure in place to provide for them. Teachers, books and desks were all in short supply. Joab found himself in a class of 74 students with only one teacher.

    In India today, nearly 100 percent of children start primary school. But only some of these kids, especially girls in rural areas, are learning the basics. Neeraj Gujar’s family did not believe her schooling was worthwhile, so work within the home remained a priority. Neeraj was expected to graze the cows and collect water from the well during the day and study in a village night school. When the night school closed, her opportunity for learning ended with it.

    Benin, too, has significantly increased enrollment of children in primary school, especially for girls, and fewer children are dropping out — at least in the early years. The gender gap widens as the students get into the higher grades, with girls in remote regions more likely to drop out. For Nanavi, the transition from primary to middle school — and from girl to young woman — spelled the end of her education.

    New goals agreed to this past weekend give developing nations another 15 years to achieve the initial goal of universal education for all. Based on lessons learned over these past 15 years, a new requirement has been added: that the education be inclusive and equitable.

    Other stories in our series so far include Brazil and Japan.

    The post How do war, poverty and gender affect a child’s education? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates joined the latest class of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows, also known as “geniuses.” Coates, along with the 23 other fellows, will receive $625,000 over the next five years. Despite the achievement, the journalist hasn’t let the genius label go to his head.

    In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Coates swatted at the the idea that he was anything but ordinary.

    Goldberg: Is winning this prize going to make you unbearable, or merely insufferable?

    Coates: Unbearably insufferable. And I now have an excuse—I am a genius, after all. Thus my insufferableness is a blessing. You should be happy I’m even communicating with you.

    He also took time to respond to troll Twitter users’ well-wishes.

    Genius.

    The post Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed a ‘genius,’ trolls the Internet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]

    SHERRILL, N.Y. — Alexander Brown swings back and forth on a makeshift hammock bolted to a wooden beam in his living room. The swaying seems to soothe the otherwise uneasy 14-year-old. His mother gazes at him from the couch and their eyes briefly connect.

    “I would love to be in Alexander’s head just for a few hours,” said Diane Brown, her head slumped against her hand. “He’s having a hard time going through puberty right now.”

    Puberty is causing chaos in Alexander’s once-predictable world.Alexander is confused, moody and frustrated – all very typical for a teen during adolescence. But Alexander’s transition is especially difficult for the Browns, a family of six in Sherrill, N.Y., because he is severely autistic.

    Puberty is causing chaos in Alexander’s once-predictable world. He can’t talk and struggles to express himself. “He’s angry and he’s sad . . . and he doesn’t understand why,” Brown said. “I truly feel for him.”

    Alexander, the third of four children, rarely sleeps through the night. He gets up at all hours to wander the kitchen, take a shower or throw a tantrum. He’s begun lashing out physically.

    Alexander Brown, 14, sits in his living room on Thursday, May 14, 2015.  He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Alexander is having a hard time with puberty and is lashing out physically. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Alexander Brown, 14, sits in his living room on Thursday, May 14, 2015. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Alexander is having a hard time with puberty and is lashing out physically. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Brown, 45, is exhausted. She averages four hours of sleep a night and powers through most days with the help of Red Bull.

    The Browns all have what they call “war wounds” from dealing with Alexander: scratches, bite marks and bruises. When he’s in a mood, they say, no one is safe, not even the family dog.

    “He clawed up my arm and it angered me,” said Alexander’s 11-year-old sister Maya, the youngest in the family. “But whatcha gonna do?”

    The sixth-grader has to be alert when her brother is around. “If I see Xander run towards me, I just run into another room so I don’t get attacked,” she said. “You grow used to it.”

    Brown, who sneaks cigarettes every now and then to calm her frayed nerves, compares the experience to riding a roller coaster without a restraint – for child or parent.

    Worse, she said, it’s the family’s second time on this terrible ride.

    Isolated But Not Alone

    Alexander has a 19-year-old brother, Connor, who also has severe autism. The eldest child, he can’t speak much or care for himself. Six years ago, he became so physically aggressive that the Browns couldn’t handle him.

    The final straw came when Connor knocked his parents down as they tried to force him onto his school bus. The driver insisted he be secured to the seat using a soft body restraint to keep his arms from flailing. After that, the Browns decided to move Connor to the Tradewinds Residential Program, a 24-hour-care facility at the same site where he and Alexander attend school during the day.

    Coping with two severely autistic sons five years apart, the Browns have often felt isolated. But their troubles are far from unique. “We sat on the back step…and we cried,” said Diane Brown, her voice trembling. “It was a realization at that moment that this was something that we had to do for all of us.”

    Coping with two severely autistic sons five years apart, the Browns have often felt isolated. But their troubles are far from unique.

    For every 68 American children, one is estimated to have autism spectrum disorder, a developmental condition that impairs communication, behavior and social interaction with varying degrees of severity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Diane Brown, 45, rest her eyes for a moment while her 14-year old son plays in the backyard of their home in Sherrill, New York on Thursday, May 14, 2015.  Brown says she hardly gets any sleep because her autistic son wakes up several times a night. “I’ve got real good at taking 15-minute naps,” she said. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Diane Brown, 45, rests her eyes for a moment while her 14-year old son plays in the backyard of their home in Sherrill, New York on Thursday, May 14, 2015. Brown says she hardly gets any sleep because her autistic son wakes up several times a night. “I’ve got real good at taking 15-minute naps,” she said. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Scientists don’t know all the causes, but most agree that the condition has a strong genetic component. It afflicts many more boys than girls, and parents of one child with autism are at higher risk of having another. One study found that nearly a fifth of young children with older autistic siblings had the disorder, and the risk rose substantially for infants who were male.

    Many families are unprepared for a second diagnosis, much less for guiding two autistic children into adulthood.

    Aggression is relatively common though hardly universal in autistic kids. According to one study, parents reported that 68 percent had demonstrated aggression toward a caregiver at some point and 49 percent to non-caregivers.

    Other research has found that aggression among autistic children contributes to parental isolation and exhaustion, threatens the safety of the kids themselves and other family members, is the leading cause of stress for caregivers and is the primary reason that families seek to have them placed outside the home.

    Research is limited on autistic kids who are going through puberty.

    But some experts suggest that while children’s behavior may improve during elementary-school years, it can deteriorate with the physical and hormonal changes that come with adolescence.

    The vast majority of autistic kids remain in the family home, and just 2 percent live in outside supportive facilities, according to one study. Some advocates and providers say home is the best setting for such children, because the risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation is greater elsewhere. Others say living in a more structured setting may offer advantages for some kids and their families.

    “The reality is that for a lot of autistic kids, normal family life is pretty chaotic. A group home might add a little bit of structure to the equation,” said Brad Boardman, executive director at the Morgan Autism Center, which provides individualized education but not residential care for children with autism in the San Francisco Bay area.

    “It can also be beneficial to families who have got into a negative pattern with a child or are seeing aggressive behavior at home,” he added. “Sometimes a move into a residential group home can be a way to reset the relationship.”

    The Browns have wrestled with this question for years: What is the right thing to do – both for the child and the family as a whole?

    Every Day A Struggle

    When Connor was born, his mother knew next to nothing about autism. “He didn’t make eye contact. He cried a lot. He was a very difficult infant,” she said. “Me being a first-time mom, I thought, ‘I’m doing everything wrong. This is my fault.’ ”

    He was diagnosed at 3, Brown said, and never received the early interventions commonly used today.

    Connor was always aggressive, Brown said. His reaction was always to get mad, throw a tantrum or break something. And when he reached puberty, his behavior became much worse.

    “Ever since I can remember, Connor would throw random fits,” said Spencer, 17, the second-oldest of the four siblings. “He had my mom in a chokehold once…and I had to try and help.”

    Diane Brown makes a shopping list with her autistic son, Connor Brown, on May 13, 2015.  Connor, 19, was enrolled at the Tradewinds Residential Facility after a period of aggressive behavior during puberty. Diane visits Connor every other day. “I see it as him going to college,” said Diane. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Diane Brown makes a shopping list with her autistic son, Connor Brown, on May 13, 2015. Connor, 19, was enrolled at the Tradewinds Residential Facility after a period of aggressive behavior during puberty. Diane visits Connor every other day. “I see it as him going to college,” said Diane. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Alexander’s life has been easier, partly because Connor came first. After spotting Alexander’s early cognitive delays and unusual emotional reactions, she took him to a pediatrician. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 18 months and began receiving a wide range of state-funded services, including speech, behavior and occupational therapy in the home.

    Still, Brown was devastated. She kept thinking about the first time she held Alexander, full of hope. “You expect as a parent that you’re going to love your child and instantly have that bond,” she said. “Then they don’t love you back, and you blame yourself.”

    “I honestly felt like I didn’t have the strength to do it again.”

    Learning To Cope

    To relieve the stress, she started a blog about having two autistic sons. She did yoga. She took a job at a local cafe to have something to do outside the home. And she took care of Connor and Alexander the best way she knew how.

    Five years ago, not long after Connor moved into the residential program, Brown said she became severely depressed. “It hit me really hard for a while. But I had to quickly snap out of that.”
    Spencer and Maya struggled, too.

    “It’s hard to have friends come over when all you hear is screaming in the background,” Spencer said. “They’ll ask, ‘What’s that?’ ” And with a shrug of his shoulders, he replies, “Oh, that’s just my brother.”

    On their good days, Maya said, Connor and Alexander can be “the sweetest boys.” Alexander will sometimes kiss her cheek or play with her on a trampoline at their grandmother’s house. “It’s not like they’re monsters or anything,” Brown said. “They’re just a little bit different.”

    Lately, though, Alexander has become harder to handle. He’s taller than his mother now, and he will outweigh her soon. Diane struggles to get him dressed and shave his sprouting mustache. He doesn’t lash out as violently as Connor did, but she can’t control him when he does.

    Brown’s husband – the children’s father – recently moved out of the house, because of escalating tensions, Diane Brown said. (Research on marital breakups among parents with autistic children is mixed. Some shows virtually no difference with other families but other work suggests a greater rate of divorce, particularly as children get older or as their behavior becomes difficult.)

    Brown’s husband comes daily to help with the children and household tasks. But his wife frets about everyone’s safety and well-being, including Alexander’s.

    Diane Brown sits on her porch swing on Thursday, May 14, 2015.  “I have four children. Two of them have a label, two don’t. Each have their own needs and I need to get my act together and be mom to all of them,” she said. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    Diane Brown sits on her porch swing on Thursday, May 14, 2015. “I have four children. Two of them have a label, two don’t. Each have their own needs and I need to get my act together and be mom to all of them,” she said. Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

    “When you have a child who just existing is so hard for them and you can see them struggle with it every single day…you want to make it better,” Diane Brown said.

    She has sadly come to believe that “making it better” means giving Alexander the same around-the-clock care that his older brother receives.

    “Alexander, just like Connor did, has outgrown our little family here,” she said. “I’m certain at this point it’s time. Time for someone to step in and be stronger and more awake than I am.”

    Brown has put him on the waiting list for the facility where Connor lives, a 15-minute drive from the house, and expects an opening soon. There, he, like Connor, would be able to see counselors and behavioral therapists, enjoy some recreation and get the structure and support he needs.

    “It’s not elaborate, but it’s comfortable and fully staffed,” she said.

    Alexander’s care, like Connor’s, would be paid for by the Social Security Disability Insurance program, state school funds and Medicaid.

    Maya says she understands. “I know it will be better for him and safer for us,” she said. “But I will miss him so much when he’s there.”

    Talking of Alexander’s departure, Brown seems less at peace than resigned. She knows she’ll feel emotional and empty when he’s gone – that’s how it was with Connor.

    “I just want them [both] to be happy in their skin,” she said.


    This story was produced by Kaiser Health News. It was produced in partnership with the Washington Post. The California Endowment helps fund KHN coverage of the Affordable Care Act in California.

    The post Autism, puberty and one family’s struggle to raise their teenage sons appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 06:  Lin-Manuel Miranda during the Broadway opening night performance of 'Hamilton' at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 6, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a new class of Genius Grant fellows today. The winners include an urban sociologist, an environmental engineer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    In a foundation video, Miranda spoke of Hamilton, the Broadway musical he wrote about founding father Alexander Hamilton that opened in August.

    The post MacArthur ‘genius’ Lin-Manuel Miranda on falling in love for a living appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    brokenjustice

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A new play inspired by today’s headlines touring the country, including a stop soon in Baltimore.

    Jeffrey Brown has the latest report in our ongoing series on mass incarceration: Broken Justice.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH, “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education”: You put leg shackles on a man who could barely walk? And then throw him in the back of a paddy wagon like, oh, a dead animal, you know what I’m saying?

    JEFFREY BROWN: A story on the stage taken from the streets of America today, the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore earlier this year, as witnessed and videotaped by a bystander named Kevin Moore.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: And you feel the camera is the only weapon you have?

    KEVIN MOORE, Baltimore: Yes, the camera is the only thing that we have to can actually protect us that’s not illegal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The storyteller is writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith, who wove Moore’s experience into her new project, titled “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education.”

    The project began with an anecdote a friend told Smith about a young person in Baltimore who was arrested after urinating on a watercooler.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: She said, oh, whatever happened to mischief? And I was just like, wow, poor kids are pathologized. And rich kids have mischief. And it just grabbed me. And I thought, it’s time to go home, really, and go back to what I began with, and look and see what’s wrong with it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Home is Baltimore, where Smith lived until she was 15.

    After the killing of Freddie Gray and the riots that ensued, it was a sadly appropriate setting for Smith her return. Anna Deavere Smith is a recognizable presence on television, these days on the Showtime program “Nurse Jackie.”

    But it’s her one-woman theater explorations of aspects of American life, from racial strife to health care, that have earned her honors and acclaim as a path-breaking American artist.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: There’s still something wrong with you. Maybe it’s because you speak Spanish.

    Could you tell me what kind of cancer you have?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: I said, this is appalling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Smith plays all the parts. But the words are those of people she’s interviewed, activists, scholars, politicians, average people affected by what’s going on.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: What I say now, after having done these interviews for many, many years, is that I’m looking for people who would scream it from a mountaintop, and I just happen to be walking by.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The aim of this journalistic-style approach, she told me recently, is to — quote — “make sense of things.”

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: It is, in terms of looking for the story and looking for witnesses, the people who are in it, to have them explain something to you that you don’t understand.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What Smith wants to understand now is what she and others call the school-to-prison pipeline, in which children, disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American, get in trouble in school for relatively minor offenses and are then funneled into the criminal justice system, changing their lives forever.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: We have retreated into a kind of segregation. And some people would say it’s all part of this gap between the rich and the poor that many, many, many people are talking about, or the gap between the rich and the middle class, or just the failure of our public institutions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the project, Smith and her team talked to hundreds of people in seven cities, including Baltimore, where we joined her for a day.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: The call for our men to get up. You even go to the sagging pants, right, which is controversial, some people say. What about that? What about the sagging pants? What does that mean? Why did you call for them to basically pull their pants up?

    REV. JAMAL BRYANT, Empowerment Temple Church: When I say pull it up, it’s not just the pants, but pull up your level of thinking, or pull up the expectation for your own life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We watched as she interviewed Reverend Jamal Bryant, who delivered the eulogy at Freddie Gray’s funeral.

    REV. JAMAL BRYANT: The reason why I want you not to cry is because Freddie’s death is not in vain.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He told Smith of his opposition to a new $30 million jail for youth.

    REV. JAMAL BRYANT: Our children have been so reduced to the color of criminality, that they are not even seen in their humanity as children.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Smith recently presented an early version of “Notes From the Field” at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California, taking on the personas of some of those she’d interviewed around the country.

    She became India Sledge, a student in West Baltimore.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: My boyfriend, Jake, was near — he was walking to the store. And the police jacked him up and threw him against the wall for no reason, checked him for no reason. And since that time, his momma’s like, I have got to get away from here, because, around this area, that’s all it is around here, is just drug dealers, drug dealers, drug dealers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As Stephanie Williams of Philadelphia, Smith gave a teacher’s view of chaos in the classroom.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: I felt like I had a whole bunch of hungry, starving people, and I had nothing in my hands to give them, even though I tried to give them so much. But it was hard to be that strong day in and day out. It was just — it felt like — it was like running a jail without a gun. That’s what it was like.

    And it’s like being in jail without a gun, no guns, no handcuffs, billy clubs. I can’t go use a club. I can’t do any of that. I got to just keep you in order just by being me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In Baltimore, of course, things were very personal for Smith.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: I’m just glad it’s not boarded up. It’s different. You know, it’s different.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As she visited her childhood neighborhood on the city’s West Side. A former neighbor, Sheila Wiggins, who taught Smith how to dance the twist, was stunned to see her.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: Oh my goodness.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Smith showed us the cemetery behind her house where she and friends would play and pick berries.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: We played in this alley, hopscotch.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, she sees enormous problems in her hometown, but also something more.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: The young people in particular who I’m talking to really show great vulnerability. They are not masked with language or jargon. And I’m very moved by that. There’s a kind of grace here in Baltimore that I miss.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In this project, Smith says, she wants to take a more activist approach than in the past, pushing local communities to engage and look for solutions.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: Right now, people are just falling off the radar. They are just dying. Or how can that continue? And the only way it’s going to turn around, I think, is by what I call this spark of a moral imagination, of a more empathic community.

    And that’s one thing art can offer. I can ask people to feel about this, until enough people say — in their community, they say, well, we have got to get this together, we have got to turn this around.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Anna Deavere Smith will perform “Notes From the Field” in California and Oregon this fall, before bringing it to Baltimore in early December.

    ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: I said, just one, Jesus, just one. I’m not trying to do the masses. I’m just trying to save one at a time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From Baltimore, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Anna Deavere Smith tackles school-to-prison pipeline on stage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A pharmacy employee looks for medication as she works to fill a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York on Dec. 23, 2009. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now let’s turn to the rising price of prescription drugs and outcries to do something about it.

    The latest uproar began after The New York Times reported how one company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of a drug from $13 a pill to $750. It follows headlines about the rising costs of new cancer drugs, as well as a breakthrough drug for hepatitis C that initially cost more than $80,000 for a course of treatment.

    The two leading Democratic candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are proposing big changes, including lowering patient costs and bigger discounts for Medicare.

    Now two views on this.

    Dr. Peter Bach is the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. And Dr. Thomas Stossel is the director of translational medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

    And, gentlemen, we welcome you both.

    Dr. Bach, I’m going to start with you.

    Why is this happening?

    DR. PETER BACH, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Well, it’s really that there’s no system in place the hold down drug prices, and so companies are just becoming increasingly bold, charging prices that they think the market will bear.

    And Turing Pharmaceuticals and the 55-fold increase in the price of Daraprim is just a version of a company testing the market, if you will, just how high they can raise a price. But we see it across drugs, rapid inflation in the cost of drugs, not only new ones, but old ones.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Stossel, how do you explain it? It’s long been the case that there has been no system for keeping prices down. Why now?

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL, Harvard Medical School: Well, there still is no system, although people are asking for it.

    Well, thank you for having me.

    So, I have been in medicine for almost half-a-century, and it’s incredibly better because of the drugs that are available. So, drugs bring great value. There’s no question about it. Also, despite the fact there’s been uptake in costs in recent years, they still constitute less than, I think, 14 percent of total health care costs.

    Now, in that 50 years, the price, the cost of what it takes to get a drug approved by the FDA has increased 100 times. And if you’re interested, I can explain why I think that is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well…

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: But it’s that is what is driving — the only antidote to keeping innovation going is to sustain profitability. Now, the Turing case is an anomaly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me…

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: That has nothing to do with innovation. That, I agree, is pure opportunism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. And we have reported on that, and we want to set that aside, because we could spend the whole time we have with you talking about it.

    But, just quickly, Dr. Bach, this point that it’s innovation, these companies are taking a risk, does that explain it, the rise in costs?

    DR. PETER BACH: Well, yes and no.

    It’s unbelievably important that we get new drugs. We need more new treatments. We have patients who need help. But it isn’t the case that the rise in costs tracks with extra burden. The truth is, more drugs are being approved now, about 90 percent of new drug applications to the Food and Drug Administration. It was only about 50 percent just eight years ago.

    There are more sort of detours around the regulatory process, single-arm trials, skipping randomized trials, shorter trials, so it’s actually getting easier to get a drug approved. The reason is that it is possible to charge very high prices.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to turn to both of you because — on this question of how badly patients are being hurt.

    Dr. Stossel, I read a quote. As I mentioned, the Democratic candidates for president are making a big issue of this. Bernie Sanders said in one interview — he talked about working-class women struggling with breast cancer, not having a lot of money, they were able to get the same medicine for one-tenth the price in Canada.

    I mean, real people are being affected by this, aren’t they?

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: Absolutely. And I don’t discount the misery, the stress that having, on top of a bad disease, to be socked with a big co-pay.

    But I see that — a big mistake to just point the finger at the drug companies. I mean, I have to disagree with Dr. Bach that it’s easier to get a drug approved today. I think it’s harder to get a drug approved today, because there is more stringent FDA regulation, and it’s engrafted on a nasty fact that biology is tough.

    There is a huge failure rate. Nine out of 10 great drug candidates don’t make it. And the successes have to pay for those failures.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it…

    (CROSSTALK)

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: And Canada controls prices. The whole world freeloads off of American drug innovation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want to quickly respond to that? Because I want to ask you both what you think should be done.

    DR. PETER BACH: No, please, proceed. Go ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think should be done about this?

    I mean, we have got the Democratic candidates for president both talking about putting caps on the price of prescription drugs. The Republican candidates take, it’s my understanding, a hands-off, government hands-off approach. What do you think should be done, Dr. Bach?

    DR. PETER BACH: Well, what we have is pricing for drugs that doesn’t make any sense. You can have a drug that doesn’t work well and charge a high price. You can have a drug that’s terrific and charge a high price.

    And what I would like to see is prices based on value. And Dr. Stossel mentioned that. And so value is something about how well the drug works to alleviate suffering, to prolong life. And if we had a market where drugs that worked better to treat disease cost more, the companies that would win in that environment are the ones who are best at innovating.

    And they could get the biggest profit. And the companies that make me-too products that aren’t incremental improvements, they wouldn’t be as profitable. And that’s how markets are supposed to work. And what’s broken here is, right now, both of those companies can charge whatever they want.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Stossel, does that sound like a solution?

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: No, because it costs just as much to develop a marginal drug as a good drug.

    Good intentions don’t lead to drug innovation. There’s a huge amount of luck, serendipity, that’s involved. And so there’s — I can’t think of any enterprise where there’s so little connection between what it costs to develop the product, what the value of the product is and what it costs to keep the system going, keeping the innovation going.

    And it’s that huge failure rate that’s the bugaboo here. And I don’t know any easy answer to it, but I do believe that it’s fantasy to think that, if you impose top-down pricing, you bring the political process into it, that you’re — if that’s what society wants, fine, but you have to understand that it is incompatible with innovation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, gentlemen, it is a big subject. And I think we have only begun to scratch at the surface. I know we’re going to come back to this again, but I want to thank both of you for joining us.

    Dr. Thomas Stossel, Dr. Peter Bach, we thank you both.

    DR. PETER BACH: Thanks very much.

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL: Thank you.

    The post Is profit or innovation driving the rising costs of drugs? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A logo of German car manufacturing giant Volkswagen is seen outside their headquarters in Wolfsburg on September 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL        (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now the scandal enveloping Volkswagen.

    Today, the company said it would recall 11 million diesel cars worldwide, after admitting they had been rigged to cheat emissions tests. The company’s stock price continues to plummet. Last week, its CEO resigned. And this week, German prosecutors said they were considering criminal charges against him.

    William Brangham has more on the unlikely way it all began.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We take a closer look at how Volkswagen got caught, and what it all means, with one of the engineers who helped catch the automaker.

    John German is a senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving vehicle emissions and one that provides research to regulators all over the world.

    So, John German, I wonder if you would just start off by telling me, how did this revelation come about?

    JOHN GERMAN, International Council on Clean Transportation: Well, we were actually just going routine testing.

    This is an outgrowth of our work in Europe. And it’s been known in Europe for five to 10 years that diesel cars have high in-use NOx emissions.

    ICCT has been working with some other groups to — on this. We have done some testing there. And our director of our European office, Peter Mock, had the bright idea that we should test some vehicles in the U.S. And our thought was, because the U.S. has the most stringent emissions standards in the world, and because EPA and CARB have a lot of legal authority and experience and do effective enforcement, that the diesel cars in the U.S. would be clean, and that we would take this data back to Europe and say, hey, they can do it in the U.S., how come you can’t do it in Europe?

    So, we were as surprised as anybody when we got the results.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Volkswagen installed this software that turned on the emissions system when the computer was being tested — when the car was being tested, and then shut it off when the car was out on the road and a regular driver was driving it.

    Now, I understand there is a great deal of complexity in the computer systems in our cars today, but how does it know? How did the software know that it was being tested?

    JOHN GERMAN: There’s no way for us to know exactly what V.W. did, but there’s a lot of potential ways that a computer can recognize that it’s on a test.

    The tests are run in a laboratory, and the vehicle is strapped down and run on some rollers. So, it’s stationary. The rear wheels don’t turn. Well, if it’s a front-wheel drive car, the non-drive wheels don’t turn. The steering rack never turns, because the vehicle doesn’t turn. It’s bolted down.

    The test is always run at the same temperature. The test is always run when the engine is cold at the start. And another way is that the test, it always follows a prescribed drive cycle. So, in other words, the speed, every second is known. And the computer can look for that, too.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is there a concern in your mind that this could be a bigger issue than just Volkswagen?

    JOHN GERMAN: Yes.

    The — there is — we have no data, we have no information that suggests that any other manufacturer has been doing the same thing, but it’s the right question to ask, especially since the U.S. has the best regulators and the most stringent standards in the world.

    So, we definitely think that government agencies worldwide need to investigate to see if other manufacturers are doing the same thing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In your mind, is this a sense of the fox guarding the henhouse? I mean, I understand that the complexity of these systems seem to me to allow the carmakers to get away with more and more nefarious activity. I mean, is that a concern of yours?

    JOHN GERMAN: It would be in any country that doesn’t have good legal authority and enforcement.

    As you say, V.W. got away with this for a while in the U.S., but look at the repercussions once they got caught. And so it’s just — the sheer magnitude of the fines and penalties and public opinion that they could face, that is the real deterrent. The agencies just have to — worldwide just have to do enough to make sure that there is some chance that they could get caught.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, are you confident at all that this, the blowback from this scandal will deter other automakers from trying to cheat like this?

    JOHN GERMAN: Absolutely.

    And you already have other manufacturers scrambling to make sure that they’re not accused of the same thing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: John German, the International Council on Clean Transportation, thank you very much for joining us.

    JOHN GERMAN: Right. You’re welcome. Thank you.

    The post How Volkswagen got caught cheating appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russia and U.S. delegations, led by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, attend a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. U.S. President Obama and Russian President Putin agreed on Monday to direct their militaries to hold talks to avoid conflict over potential operations in Syria, a U.S. official said. Picture taken September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.   - RTS26EL

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that, let’s turn back to our correspondent, chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, at the United Nations.

    Margaret, apologies. We lost you a few minutes ago.

    We were talking about that session this morning, the anti-ISIS session that was held at the U.N. How did you read that meeting?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, you had started out asking if it was flat. I would say definitely that’s an understatement.

    I mean, here you had presidents, prime ministers all around the table, and talking about, you know, what they have achieved. Well, they couldn’t say they have achieved much. Instead, they bemoaned how much ISIS has gained ground in their own countries, either with attacks or recruiting their young people. They tried to analyze the problem. And it had to do with Internet recruitment.

    But really they said exactly the same things they said a year ago. They said — almost none could point to a real accomplishment. Then they didn’t have any frank discussion about the fault with their own strategy and what they should do. They were all canned speeches.

    And, amazingly, they totally ignored the elephant in the room, which Andrew and Nick just talked about, which is, ISIS is based in Syria. What are they going to do about the home base of ISIS? And that of course gets into this whole discussion about Assad’s future.

    And if the anti-ISIL coalition, as the White House calls it, insists, you know, that they’re in the lead, to think they didn’t even discuss this was astonishing to me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s come back to the meeting yesterday between the two — first of all, the two speeches of President Obama and President Putin, dueling speeches, you could characterize them, and then the meeting they had later in the day. What do we know about that meeting, and how did the atmosphere of what happened yesterday play into today?

    MARGARET WARNER: So, you easy, what we’re told — and it was still going on when you and I spoke last night — is, they were very businesslike, frank. They certainly did have a stony handshake at the beginning, but that, once they got in the room, though it was certainly not warm and chummy — these two men don’t like each other — that there were none of the recriminations about, oh, this is your fault and this is your fault. They got to business.

    Half the discussion was about Syria and what to do about Syria. And they agreed on some common ground. And, of course, U.S. officials, including John Kerry, who went on “Morning Joe” today, tried to point to the positives: We agree ISIL is really a serious threat to all of us, that their returning foreign fighters are really a threat to your country and mine and the whole region and all of Europe, and that the ultimate goal, they said, was an integrated, secular Syria, which I know many people think is now illusory.

    But they didn’t have any meeting of the minds on this future of Assad. The one thing they did agree is that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov will continue discussions about getting a political process going, a political transition going.

    And, to me, the big question is, can this be, as in the Iran nuclear talks, where the U.S. and Russia were able to isolate those talks and really actually work together to get that Iranian nuclear deal, or will it be like the situation in Ukraine, where it’s so poisoned by the hostility or dislike or distrust really between Presidents Obama and Putin, that it will go nowhere? And we just don’t know.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret, very quickly, finally, where do you see this anti-ISIS coalition headed in terms of what it can get done?

    MARGARET WARNER: I think it was summed up by two people today, first of all, King Abdullah of Jordan, who said, if we can’t do — if we can’t work more effectively, we will all pay the price.

    This was a public meeting. And late in the day, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, was briefing reporters on Air Force One as it headed home, because they piped it in to us here, and he basically said — acknowledged that, a year from now, when they come back to meet here, this issue will still be at the top of the agenda suggesting it’s going to be a very, very long slog.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret warning — Margaret Warner continuing a long and productive week…

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARGARET WARNER: … myself.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … covering the U.N. meetings in New York, we thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: A pleasure.

    The post Leaders see Islamic State fight as long slog appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28:  Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on September 28, 2015 in New York City. The ongoing war in Syria and the refugee crisis it has spawned are playing a backdrop to this years 70th annual General Assembly meeting of global leaders.  (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to turn to our next segment, which is talking to two guests about what is going on in Syria and the Russian involvement.

    And I’m just going to preface that by saying, as we have been reporting, last month, Russia started to beef up its military support to the regime in Syria. It started sending supplies and equipment, even sending attack aircraft, as this recent satellite image shows.

    So, the question is, what impact will Russia’s intervention in the Syrian war have, and what is really motivating President Putin?

    For that we get two views. Nikolas Gvosdev is professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. He has written extensively about Russia. And Andrew Tabler, he is a senior fellow at the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

    Welcome to you both.

    Andrew Tabler, to you first. Why are the Russians doing this? Why are they getting involved in Syria?

    ANDREW TABLER, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: The Russians are getting involved in Syria because they want to prop up the Assad regime.

    President Assad only controls roughly 20 to 25 percent of his territory. He’s been losing ground, and quite rapidly. Russia was worried about a catastrophic collapse of the regime that could be taken advantage of by ISIS. That’s why they’re moving in on the surface. But there are other reason as well that have to do with Russia’s place in the region.

    It’s asserting its power. And also there has been some speculation that they’re trying to get out of the debacle that they find themselves in Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So more about propping up Assad than about doing away with ISIS?

    ANDREW TABLER: That’s right.

    It seems, based on their deployment, whether it’s by — we see significant sea, air buildup with significant fighter aircraft, and augmenting airfields and naval facility. It seems they’re there to support Assad in the western part of the country. The question remains, will they play a constructive role over all of the country, and how will they deploy vis-a-vis ISIS?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will get into that.

    Nick Gvosdev, what exactly is Russia doing in Syria right now? What kind of material and men do they have on the ground?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV, U.S. Naval War College: Well, as Andrew pointed out, they’re putting in advanced equipment.

    They have a number of battalions arriving. They’re putting in — they’re reinforcing their port in Tartus, outside of Latakia. They’re putting in both fighter aircraft. There are reports that long-range bombers are being readied in Southern Russia that could be flown over the Caspian, over Iranian and Iraqi airspace and then could conduct missions in Syria.

    And I think that we’re seeing the Russians positioning for two things. One is of course to help bolster the Assad regime, but the other thing is to prepare a fallback plan, which is that, if Assad cannot be restored to control over most of Syria, the Russians still want to have a say in how Syria will evolve in the coming years.

    And one way they can do this is by ensuring that Assad, the Alawites, some of the Christian groups have a secure enclave along the coast that then could be used as a bargaining chip with Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the other powers for how the future of Syria would go about. And it’s essentially to say that Russia, too, has a voice and a veto in what happens in the Middle East, and it’s not just simply the regional powers or the United States that get to determine the future of Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Andrew Tabler, whatever the combination of reasons for their doing it, can they be successful?

    ANDREW TABLER: It’s very difficult.

    The Assad regime is crippled. I think this is where, analytically, the United States and Russia are just very — in very, very different places, Barack Obama not a big fan of going into Syria, obviously. Why is he betting on the opposition? Well, because Assad controls such little territory, because he’s so rigid in terms of his political positions, and because he’s been unable to really turn it around and retake and capture all of this territory.

    So, the Russians are betting on a failed scheme, and that’s the way the United States sees it. We will have to wait and see if the Russian intervention changes the calculation and to what degree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Gvosdev, how do you see that? Do you think the Russians have the capacity to make a difference in Syria, when nobody else has?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Well, it depends, as Andrew has already pointed out, to what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to reestablish Assad’s control over all of Syria and to grind all the opposition group, ISIS, the non-ISIS groups, into the dust, so that Assad is left in control of all of Syria, that’s very difficult.

    On the other hand, if the fallback plan is to start creating these safe enclaves, both for Assad, but also for Russian interests, so that the Russian bases on the Mediterranean are secure, that could be more doable, because then you don’t have to retake territory. You simply have to prevent ISIS and other opposition groups from expanding further.

    And, of course, the Russians will have a much different set of rules of engagement when they — if and when they engage in combat in Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: They are much more prepared to use force.

    And what we have already seen over the last few days, if some of these reports are to be credited, that Syrian government strikes have gotten more accurate, have gotten better, is that a case of Russian intelligence and Russian capabilities beginning to aid the Syrian regime? We will have to see.

    But if the goal is to keep Assad in control of the Syria that he has left, the Russians are in a better position to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk right now, Andrew Tabler, about the U.S. in all this.

    How do you envision, if any, cooperation, collaboration between the U.S. and Russia? We know that’s what President Obama and President Putin were to talk about, and we’re going to come back the Margaret Warner in a minute about that. Is it — and is this something the U.S. should do?

    ANDREW TABLER: Well, you know, on the surface, there’s been an effort to deconflict the two military activities, which is that so pilots don’t start shooting at each other, which would lead both countries to war over something like Syria. That’s something that nobody really wants.

    There’s some convergence of concern over things like foreign fighters, on the breakdown of Syria and hemorrhaging people and migrants and so on elsewhere. The big issue, though, is that Russia and the United States completely differ on an end state in Syria with the…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On whether Assad should remain in power?

    ANDREW TABLER: Well, yes.

    They — the U.S. believes that Assad should step aside and has for four years. Putin and Russia now say that President Assad must be the basis for a settlement, not that his regime would be a basis for a settlement. And that’s a big difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Nick Gvosdev, how do you see that? I mean, do you — what — how do you envision cooperation between the U.S. and Russia? Is this something the United States should be even considering?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Well, in my own opinion on this, a lot depends on what the ultimate U.S. goals are.

    And, of course, we have sent very conflicting signals. On one hand, we appear to say we want to disengage from the region. We’re reluctant to really put our own people on the ground or to really get involved. On the other hand, as Andrew has pointed out, we don’t necessarily agree with the end state that the Russians would want. This, of course, would also certainly increase Iranian influence in the region as well, which is something that our strategy has worked to try to contain over the last number of years.

    So, in some ways, we have to set our own priorities first of what end state we would like and what we’re prepared to do about it. What’s also interesting, of course, is to see how other regional powers are beginning to assess the changed conditions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: You had Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to Moscow. You had President Erdogan of Turkey in Moscow this past Wednesday to have consultations with President Putin. And it’s clear that the powers of the region are now also beginning to reassess what their strategies are willing to be in light of the Russian involvement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of moving parts here, all instigated by the move by the Russians to get more engaged in Syria.

    Nick, Nikolas Gvosdev, Andrew Tabler, we thank you both.

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Thank you.

    The post Can Russia make a difference in Syria’s war? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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